The Week



Berkeley's New Council Majority and the Shelter Game

Carol Denney
Wednesday December 14, 2016 - 05:07:00 PM

As you enter Berkeley's old City Hall where the council meetings are held you'll find people tucked away on cardboard in the alcoves of the entryway and curled up nearby under the bushes.

You'll meet even more people lounging in the well-lit first floor seating, especially in hard weather. There may be a serious - and intentional- lack of shelter beds in Berkeley, but there's no lack of empty, well-lighted spaces. The public buildings are full of them and if you add the commercial spaces yawning all over town there are tons. The LLCs which own them will wait decades if they must to replicate pre-2008 rental and lease rates no matter how many people pile up on the street or how many businesses go bust looking for reasonable commercial rates.

It isn't just about profit. It's about power. And right now the new majority on the Berkeley City Council looks like a bunch of clowns trying to find the right phrases to cloak their willingness to do almost the right thing and almost enough to imitate change without having to actually make any.

Except for Cheryl Davila. District 2's representative's soft-spoken, clear dissent on taking a Homeland Security grant requiring an $80,000 buy-in by the city for a less-offensive-looking bullet-proof van which even its promoters admit is just a facade change is simply common sense. But it looks heroic next to the backbone-free group next to her on the dais, which stumbled all over itself trying to say Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter at the same time without sounding like, well, politicians on the spot.

It was the same with the "emergency" homeless measures colliding together under Item 39; more committees! more study! But somehow very little clarity about the raids on homeless people's tents. -more-

In sickness and in health...

Steve Martinot
Wednesday December 14, 2016 - 05:00:00 PM

It is not often that I get stopped in my tracks, staring at a huge specter of "WTF" hanging over the world. I mean, jaded as I am, it is rare that something takes my breath away. But I just saw a report by a health practicianer on the health conditions of the homeless encampment, the one that keeps getting kicked around by the Berkeley police department from MLK to Fairview to Adeline to Kittridge to Center to Fairview to Adeline, etc. It contained long lists of ailments that pertained to a short list (a dozen or so) of people. Pulmonary disease, asthma, cardiac hypertension, blood in the urine, chronic diarrhia (producing dehydration), type 2 diabetes, hepatitus C, mobility issues (living with extreme neuralgia, arthritis, and the after-effects of artificial joint implants), and PTSD.

Is that how half the world lives, that half below the poverty line? Have I heard right that in the US it is only 40%?

My jaded side says “sure, that is to be expected when forced to live on the street.” Once one is thrown there by circumstance, because the economic demands of ordinary life are out of reach and psychologically marginalizing, even though one learns to survive, there are costs. It is well-known that living on the street, like being sentenced to indeterminate periods to solitary confinement in prison, is productive of severe mental health issues. What is unfathomable is that though these health conditions are evident, perhaps in the medications people have with them, or the certifications of their conditions by medical doctors, or the prosthetic devices they need to use, or their hobbling gait, their relative immobility, that these have become reasons for eviction from their encampment and the communality that helps them survive. And I use the term "eviction" precisely because it does not pertain and yet it does.

To ignore these conditions, whether by the police who break up their encampment communities, or by those who applaud such actions, signifies a desire that these condition only get worse. I’m not sure I know how to grasp a consciousness that can say to others, “I desire that your illness gets worse.” -more-

Berkeley Mental Health Commission to hold hearings on $8 million budget

Allison Levitsky (BCN)
Tuesday December 13, 2016 - 11:38:00 AM

City officials in Berkeley are fielding public input this week on an $8 million budget to bolster mental health services in the city. -more-

Berkeley Chamber Opera Shows What Great Things a Small Opera Company Can Do

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday December 12, 2016 - 12:48:00 PM

In two performances, Friday, December 9, and Sunday, December 11, at Berkeley Hillside Club, Berkeley Chamber Opera did itself proud, offering first-rate singers and musicians in Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues). Featuring two outstanding principals, mezzo-soprano Liliane Cromer as Romeo, and soprano Eliza O’Malley as Juliet (Giulietta in Italian), this, of course, is the Romeo and Juliet story, loosely based on Shakespeare’s great play. Set in Verona during the 13th century, a time of strife between Guelphs and Ghibellines, two warring political factions, this opera pits two families, the Capulets, who are Guelphs, against the Montagues, who are Ghibellines. Juliet, a Capulet, is secretly in love with Romeo, a Montague. But Romeo has had to flee Verona in exile after having killed the brother of Juliet in battle. -more-

New: Election Wrap-Up: Arreguin, Progressives Won Big in High Turnout Berkeley Election. (News Analysis)

Rob Wrenn
Saturday December 10, 2016 - 11:27:00 AM

The election of Jesse Arreguin as mayor, along with the election of Ben Bartlett, Cheryl Davila and Sophie Hahn to the City Council, was a major victory for progressives. It restores a progressive majority that split and fell apart as Mayor Tom Bates moved to the center and adopted a more moderate stance over the course of his fourteen years in office.

In an eight candidate race, Jesse defeated his opponent, now former District 5 councilmember Laurie Capitelli, by a 49.1% to 32.1% margin in first choice votes. With ranked choice voting, he crossed the 50% threshold when second choice votes of Naomi Pete, Mike Lee and Bernt Wahl were counted. -more-

Press Release: Jesse Arreguin inaugurated as Berkeley mayor

From Stefan Elgstrand, assistant to Mayor Arreguin
Friday December 09, 2016 - 11:46:00 AM

Last night, at Old Berkeley City Hall, Jesse Arreguin was inaugurated as Berkeley’s 22nd Mayor. Arreguin, 32, is Berkeley’s youngest Mayor in over 100 years, and the first Latino to lead the city.

Arreguin ran for Mayor on a progressive platform, with a commitment to tackle the city’s affordability crisis. He was elected on November 8.

During Mayor Arreguin’s inaugural speech, he addressed the outcome of the national election and spoke of the pressing need for Berkeley’s progressive leadership in the years ahead. -more-

Three robberies on Virginia Street prompt Berkeley police warning

Scott Morris (BCN)
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 02:34:00 PM

Residents of North Berkeley have been urged to stay vigilant after a series of three robberies of pedestrians in the last week that might be related to three other robberies in November. -more-

November 8, 2016 General Election Official Results from Alameda County Statement of Vote:
Berkeley and Selected Regional Offices and Measures

Saturday December 10, 2016 - 11:59:00 AM

Mayor First Choice Votes

Jesse Arreguin 28,984 49.1%

Laurie Capitelli 18,957 32.1%

Kriss Worthington 4,730 8.0%

Ben Gould 1,732 2.9%

Bernt Wahl 1,667 2.8%

Zachary Runningwolf 1,606 2.7%

Mike Lee 947 1.6%

Naomi Pete 371 .6%

Mayor Ranked Choice Vote:

Jesse Arreguin 29,499 50.4%

Laurie Capitelli 19,401 33.1%

Jesse went over 50% when second choice votes of Pete, Lee and Wahl were counted. It was not necessary to count second choice ballots of Runningwolf, Gould, or Worthington. -more-



Disaster highlights the need for effective regulation in Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 09, 2016 - 12:00:00 PM

Even if we don’t know anyone who died in the East Bay’s tragic fire, most of us are one or two removes away from someone who did. Our former employee and friend managed the career of some of the musicians who were lost, for example, and there were many more connections there to people we know. It’s a personal loss for family and friends, and also a loss to the wider society on many levels. I’m told that ushers at U.C. Berkeley’s Zellerbach auditorium were weeping on Friday because one of their number, a young man with considerable charm and many other accomplishments, perished in the flames. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Public Comment

Going Forward: An Open Letter to Berkeley's new City Council

Charlene M. Woodcock
Friday December 09, 2016 - 11:11:00 AM

New policies

Berkeley voters have made clear their wish for a change of direction in the governance of Berkeley that will be more attentive to the needs and values of our existing residents and to the consequences of serious income inequality. We see cheaply-built 6- and 8-story buildings going up all over Berkeley. We see our handsome historic buildings downtown demeaned: a garish hotel planned for Shattuck and Center, and the grotesquely oversized 2211 Harold Way project that will demolish the beautifully-designed, financially successful Shattuck Cinemas, a fine example of creative reuse of an historic building. Rather than approve rapid construction of new residential buildings that exacerbate gentrification and serve those who can pay market and luxury rates, we hope now to see the city focus on ensuring housing for our low income residents and middle class families. Berkeley's cultural and economic diversity, its teachers, artists, musicians, and minimum-wage working people, are a highly valued part of our city’s cultural fabric.

The previous council majority’s failure to require cutting edge energy efficiency and resource conservation in the design and construction of the many new buildings now going up is also a factor in the opposition to new development measured in the poll done for the Berkeley Property Owners Association: “Our polling research showed that the electorate was really ticked off about new development in Berkeley. Our political consultants said they never in their combined 100 years or so of running political campaigns had seen anything poll at 72 percent.” (December 2016 BPOA newsletter). -more-

Living Disabled

Lois A. Crispi
Saturday December 10, 2016 - 09:20:00 AM

This article is written solely from my point of view on the lot of the Disabled in Berkeley and elsewhere. However, I believe there are thousands who would agree with me. I am an elderly woman who was born 76 years ago with a serious birth defect. My life expectancy was six years. The hardest part of being Disabled is that one is looked upon as a nonentity. The word NONENTITY is worth repeating. The assistance received when I was born helped minimally at best. It’s not much better today. -more-

Response to Dan McMullan

Sheila Goldmacher
Friday December 09, 2016 - 11:16:00 AM

I absolutely agree with Mr. McMullan. The city manager's actions seem cause for removal immediately upon the new Mayor's being sworn in. As for the others involved in this ugly action against everything we voted for, those folks should receive damning letters in their employee files and if possible, removed as well, for giving misinformation to the police department. and as for the police department's actions, they too should be condemned for doing such harm and abuse to homeless, disabled people for they too knew that the citizens of Berkeley had voted against the continuance of such behavior on their part. Trump in Berkeley - what a holiday to look forward to. -more-

December Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 01:56:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! -more-


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:India & Pakistan: The Unthinkable

Conn Hallinan
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 11:19:00 AM

President-elect Donald Trump’s off the cuff, chaotic approach to foreign policy had at least one thing going for it, even though it was more the feel of a blind pig rooting for acorns than a thought out international initiative. In speaking with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Trump said he wanted “to address and find solutions to the county’s [Pakistan’s] problems.”

Whether Trump understands exactly how dangerous the current tensions between Pakistan and India are, or if anything will come from the Nov. 30 exchange between the two leaders, is anyone’s guess, but it is more than the Obama administration has done over the past eight years, in spite of a 2008 election promise to address the on-going crisis in Kashmir.

And right now that troubled land is the single most dangerous spot on the globe. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: Donald Trump, Cult Leader

Bob Burnett
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 10:57:00 AM

Donald Trump's unexpected presidential win is best understood as a pseudo-religious event. Trump voters saw November 8th as their last chance to "save" America. Out of desperation they joined the cult of Trump. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Needs of the mentally ill

Jack Bragen
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 03:26:00 PM

A mentally ill individual in recovery shouldn't have to be burdened with basic survival. Yet, too often, we are. If you look at the picture of what happens to mentally ill people; being thrown into a detention facility, being homeless, living on the lower fringe of income for those lucky enough to have government benefits, or living in substandard or institutional housing, there is something wrong with the picture. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Congressman Keith Ellison the frontrunner for chairman of the Democratic National Committee

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday December 10, 2016 - 01:16:00 PM

It is time for the Democratic Party to undergo a fundamental reassessment. The Democrats will shortly choose a new Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman. Hopefully, the DNC will choose wisely as the Democratic Party needs to be re-imagined as less of an insider’s club focused on raising money, more of an advocate for the working-class, and not rest on the current status quo. With a new, reinvigorated DNC and a new presidential nominee, the Democrats can take back the White House in four years. -more-

Arts & Events

The Magnificent Seven One:

Mifune Memorialized Magnificently

Gar Smith
Thursday December 08, 2016 - 01:15:00 PM

At the Landmark Shattuck, December 9

It is fair to say that, without director Akira Kurasawa and actor Toshiro Mifune, there would have been no Magnificent Seven, No Clint "Fistful of Dollars" Eastwood, No Dirty Harry, and no Darth Vader.

George Lucas has admitted that Star Wars was inspired, in large measure, by Kurasawa's samurai epics. (Look no further than Darth Vader's Space Samurai costume.) Lucas even tried to get Mifune to play the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars film but, when the Japanese legend turned down the offer, the role went to Sir Alec Guiness. (Spielberg had better luck many years later when Mifune signed on for a role in the WWII comedy, 1941, where Mifune co-starred with the likes of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.)

There are two towering legends in Japanese cinema and Godzilla takes second place to Mifune. You wouldn't want to run afoul of either one of them. Toshio Mifune made 27 films in four years, a testament to the grueling task of a contract employee. Mifune and many of his colleagues routinely worked 350 days out of every year. -more-